At least 837 attorney-client calls were recorded by Maine jails
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At least 837 attorney-client calls were recorded by Maine jails in the last year in a “massive breach of attorney-client privilege,” according to an investigative report.
It’s not known how many of the calls were turned over to prosecutors, according to the investigative stories (here and here) by Pine Tree Watch. In at least four instances over the last five years, recorded calls were sent to prosecutors.
Maine’s public defense agency, the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services, is trying to determine if there were more. John Pelletier, executive director of the commission, told Pine Tree Watch that he is working with jails to gather more information.
“Fortunately for Maine,” Pelletier said, “we did not discover a situation where the prosecutors were readily listening to these calls, using them in plea negotiations or actually litigating the admissibility of calls in cases.”
The investigation began when the Maine Attorney General’s office reported in April that it accidentally obtained recordings of an inmate’s calls with his lawyer at the Somerset County Jail.
Jails in Androscoggin, Aroostook, Franklin and Somerset reported that they had found 837 calls that should not have been recorded. Some counties did not release records of improperly recorded calls, despite freedom of information requests.
One private vendor that records calls said it stops recording when corrections employees or lawyers mark the calls as private. Apparently, some lawyer phone numbers were not put into the system to notify the company.
The Commission on Indigent Legal Services plans to draft legislation that would prohibit the recording and monitoring of phone calls between inmates and lawyers. Jails that violate the law could be subject to a civil penalty and lawsuits by improperly recorded inmates.